Reflections on the State of Our Union

A painting of the U.S. Capitol Building by Elizabeth Roskam

The state of our union
is not what we’d like.
There’s growing division.
The dawn’s early light
has morphed into darkness
and shrouded our hope
that unity can be restored.

A Congress divided.
A White House beet-red
from classified docs
Biden wants put to bed.
And fears of recession
that won’t go away
just add to our growing despair.

There’re protests in cities.
Things aren’t black and white
when it comes to policing
and criminals’ rights.
The blindfold of Justice
needs to be retied
while those who are guilty are judged.

The Church is in conflict
over what Scripture means.
Are it’s teachings still timeless
or what culture deems?
Should preachers be silenced
from speaking their minds?
Has tolerance trumped what was truth?

Yes, the state of our union
is fragile at best.
There’s constant division and brewing unrest.
We need a revival of psyche and soul.
May God bless our nation again!

May Your Prophets Find the Courage

New hymn lyrics for Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance

May Your prophets find the courage
to heed Your call
as they strive to climb a mountain
burdened for all.
Help them dream a King-size vision
of a land without division
focused on a holy mission
where tyrants fall.

May Your prophets speak out boldly
hearing Your voice.
Help them stand up for those victims
denied a choice.
Much like Moses and like Martin,
use Your prophets as they pardon
those enslaved and thus disheartened
so they’ll rejoice.

May Your prophets stand on prophets’
shoulders of old,
high above reproach or scandal
grasping for gold.
Help them to make plain Your passion
even when it seems old-fashioned
for the poor who have no stanchion
out in the cold.

*This hymn text can be sung to the tune Ar Hyd Y Nos (All Through the Night)

Election Day’s a Chooseday!

Election Day is the day we voice our values and influence our future

You cast your vote.
You voice your will
with gratitude you can.
Democracy exists because
you opt to take a stand.

Election Day’s a Chooseday.
It’s a chance to make a choice.
It’s a right that you’ve been given.
And there’s power in your voice.

Those you choose will make decisions
that will shape the world to come.
It’s your house (it’s not the White House)
where the fight for freedom’s won.

So do not neglect your duty.
On this Chooseday, choose to be
one whose wealth is found in choices
rather than the lottery.

The Home Row of Freedom

A manual typewriter keys remind us of what is not automatic

I’ve had a fascination with typewriters since I was three years old. I used to sit at my pastor-father’s manual Royal and pretend I was writing a sermon.

When I was in 8th grade, I audited a beginning typing class at the local community college. It was then I learned about the eight keys on the standard keyboard known as the “home row.”

In case you’ve forgotten, the home row of keys is comprised of ASDFJKL and the semi-colon. They are the resting position for your two hands. They’re like middle C on a piano. The home row serves as a foundation. They provide a perspective for your fingers as you type without having to look at the keyboard. Once your left hand and your right hand are oriented, you have a sense of security of where you are and where you’re headed.

With that orientation in mind, I’d like to consider those eight keys on this Independence Day weekend. Each of those letters stands for something foundational to our identity as a nation. They underscore what sets us apart. These qualities are the home row of our freedom. 

A stands for allegiance. Whenever we say “the pledge,” we vow our allegiance to more than the flag. We promise loyalty to the republic for which it stands. As we watch the Ukrainians resisting the Russians to remain independent, we see allegiance modeled courageously. What we see inspires us to a greater patriotism.

S calls to mind stewardship. When we sing America the Beautiful we are reminded of what lies beneath our spacious skies from sea to shining sea. The beauty of our country is ours to maintain and keep beautiful. We are the stewards. We are the caretakers entrusted to guarantee a litter-free, carbon-free future for our descendants.

D is for democracy. My Greek ancestors introduced the concept to our planet 2500 years ago. For the last 246 years we have carried forth the concept of self-rule. A government of the people, for the people and by the people is what makes our home sweet home as sweet as it is.

F stands for faith. Although we are a nation that insists on an appropriate border between church and state, we have always been a nation that has recognized a higher power and humbled ourselves with gratitude for the undeserved blessings of the Almighty. The fabric of our union frays to the degree we disregard God’s presence and sovereignty.

J is for justice. In spite of what we promise when we place our hand over our heart and pledge allegiance to Old Glory, we have failed miserably to insure justice for all. Nonetheless, the pursuit of justice remains at the core of our corporate conscience. Equal treatment under the law is the homefield advantage our constitution guarantees.

K calls to mind kinship. America has always been a family of people made up of individual families. We’ve been called a melting pot and an ethnic gumbo. We are a quilt of diverse cultures stitched together by the thread of a common dream. But that common dream does not denigrate our unique backgrounds. Rather, it celebrates them. Kinship is at our core.

L stand for Liberty. The gigantic statue in New York Harbor and the cracked bell in the City of Brotherly Love will never let us forget that liberty is at the heart of our identity as a free people. We fight wars on our own behalf and on behalf of others to protect the right to vote, the right to worship, the right to protest and the right to succeed. 

; The semi-colon reminds us of the fact that our story as a nation is still being written. According to Thomas Jefferson, the American experience is an experiment still being tested. Each Independence Day is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the kind of country we desire to be as we keep our fingers on the home row. 

Marking a Monarch’s Platinum Jubilee

Your Majesty, your Jubilee
now calls to mind your reign
that’s showered countless Brits with more than tea.
Your subjects curtsy and they bow
with homage in their hearts.
You represent their love of royalty.

God, Save the Queen”
they proudly sing as palace guards stand tall.
The lyrics of this anthem voice their prayer,
that God would guide your every step
and give to you long life,
that you might sense God’s presence everywhere.

Elizabeth, the world-at-large
now celebrates your rule.
Beyond your realm we recognize your face.
We are not blind to griefs you’ve known
or critics of The Crown.
But through it all, we marvel at your grace.

Your Majesty, we mark your reign
(three-score-and-ten grand years)
as flags fly high and banners are unfurled.
Your Jubilee provides a peek
at that for which we long…
real peace and oneness in our war-torn world.